Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rest, recovery, and re-starting training

After the Shires of Vermont I have to admit I was REALLY wiped out.  It took a while for my body to bounce back, actually I feel like it hasn't completely bounced back yet.  My electrolytes were whacked.  I noticed when I saw the pro photos from the marathon that my ankles were super swollen, I kind of had muffin top over my socks.  I knew I had a severe inbalance because I had to loosen my Garmin part way through the race because it was cutting into my wrist.  BUT on the brightside, I felt ok.  I never stopped sweating and I didn't throw up or get the chills so I'll take a little swelling.

Anyway, the only downside to the electrolyte imbalance is that it took my body longer to recover than usual.  I rested all week and still didn't feel great.  Work was stressing me out and even though it was a short week to begin with because I took Monday off it felt like a long week that was never going to end.  I felt so crappy by Thursday that I ended up taking Friday off from work to relax.  It was just what I needed.  I slept in and stayed in bed late into the morning.  Got up slowly and enjoyed some tea and breakfast while watching the Today Show, went for a short bike ride, and then got dressed and headed to REI for the big Memorial Day sale they were having.  I needed an excuse to buy some new tri shorts.  After REI I went to the mall and then headed home for some late lunch and a nap.

Friday night, my friend Erin came over for dinner.  We walked to Life Alive in Lowell and sat and chatted for a while before going back to my house for some tea and more talking.  We got back to my house just in time for the start of the Bellator Fights on MTV2, a friend of mine (Rick Hawn) was fighting in the 155 weight class fight so we stayed up to watch.  It was a wicked good fight.  It went all three rounds and then went to a judges decision.  I was so nervous and I wasn't even there.  He won the fight!  But it was 10:30 when it was over. 

Saturday morning I had plans to do a group run with friends in Hampton Beach, NH but when I woke up it was already in the 70s and I was sweating just standing brushing my teeth.  I bailed on the group run and did a run nearby with Cherie in Methuen and ran 8 miles.  It was super hot and hilly and I barely made it through, but it was pretty nice to be done with the run at 8:30am when we would have been starting the run in Hampton Beach.  I hung out at Cherie's for a while drinking coffee and talking then I headed home for a shower and some food. I took a nice nap and then met up with Kim and Bill in Ayer for an afternoon bike ride.

The bike ride was really nice, we rode about 9.5 miles to an ice cream place and got some yummy treats then rode 9.5 miles back.  I got peanut butter moose tracks.  It was AWESOME!!!  The bike ride was totally flat along the rail trail.  There were a ton of people out and about.  We even saw a snapping turtle.  When we got back from the bike ride we all jumped in the pool to cool off.  It was a perfect day - Run, Bike, Swim - reverse triathlon spread out with a nap and some food inbetween.

Sunday, I decided to be lazy and slept most of the day on my couch watching the History Channel.  Monday was the holiday, I got up and went for a run early in the morning before it got too warm and then hopped on my bike for a nice long ride.  After the ride I started to prepare for the week, went grocery shopping, did laundry, made dinners and lunches for the week.  Then settled down for the evening.

This week so far has been super crazy at work.  I've been working 6am to 7pm everyday.  Yesterday, I went for a run at 4:30am before going to work and I think it pissed off my body because about 6.5 miles into my 7 mile run, almost home, it felt like someone hit me in in the shoulders with defibrillator paddles.  All of the sudden out of nowhere there was a sharp stabbing pain in my upper-middle back.  It hurt to breathe.  I slowed to a crawl and made it home.  Showered and went to work, but the pain was incredible.  I had to take some ibuprofen just to be able to function.

It seems better today, but I'm resting and waiting to see how I feel later.  I have my first triathlon this weekend and I really want to do well, but the forecast is making me worry a little.  70% chance of rain and temps in the 50s.  Could be a yucky race, but it will be fun and a good learning experience.  Can't wait.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Holy Hills and Heat - Happy Birthday to me!

Well, I had a very busy birthday week.  

Wednesday, I took a vacation day and spent the day at the spa with my running buddies Kim and Shannon.  We did a short easy 4 mile run first, then after quick showers and clean clothes we were off to the spa.  I got a 80 minute massage and manicure/pedicure.  The massage was nice, I could have used a little deeper muscle work, but it was nice to just relax.  I got my special 'marathon' pedicure - light pink on all my toes except for the second toe, that one was painted dark purple.  It's my own funny runner joke pedicure.  I mean I do not have cute feet and have lost my toenails more times than I can count so I don't try to pretend I have nice nails.  I go with what I have and make a little fun of it.

Thursday, I got acupuncture after work and it was amazing.  My acupuncturist, Peri, even gave me a nice little birthday bouquet from her garden.  She put a few press tacks (mini-needles) in various points for lungs and diaphragm to help me in the stair climb.  Then a few crystals and a gold press ball on my ear for muscle recovery.  It's always a pleasure to visit her and I leave feeling amazing, balanced and calm, ready to take on any challenge.

Friday was my birthday and I celebrated by going to my favorite place for lunch - Life Alive.  After work I had a very low key night and just went home and packed and mentally prepared for the weekend events.  I must have packed and unpacked my bag 8-10 times.  I'm always afraid I will forget something.  I end up packing double of everything and taking way more stuff than I need, but I freak out thinking about 'what ifs' like if I wake up and go to get ready run and have no socks.

Saturday, bright and early in the morning, I got up and got ready and hit the road at 6:00am.  I had to drive about 3 hours to a small town in Vermont - Bennington.  The first event of the weekend was a stair climb.  I got my birthday wish and managed to get gifts from various friends and family members that helped me raise $500 for American Lung Association.  I made incredible time and got to Bennington in about 2 and a half hours.  It was a beautiful day.  Sunny and in the 70s.  The views were absolutely breathtaking.  I got to the monument really early and had some time to wander around and take a few pictures and explore.  Here's what I had to climb up:
438 stairs, up to the little windows you can see about 3/4 of the way up.  The stairs were weird.  Long and not tall so it was more like running up a ramp.  The stairs were all around the interior of the monument with an elevator shaft in the middle.  The handrails were lopsided so it was a little tricky.  Then at the very top, there was a spiral staircase.  That slowed me down a bit.  I finished the climb in 2:45!  Oh and got 2nd place in my age group and finished 6th overall out of 40 women.

After the stair climb I had about an hour to kill before I could go pick up my packet for the marathon.  I just drove around and checked out the town a little.  Finally, I went to get my marathon bib# then drove to the hotel to check in.  My hotel was in Manchester, VT where the finish line for the marathon would be.  By the time I got to the hotel it was about 3:00pm.  I got settled and just relaxed for a little bit before I went ot the front desk to ask where I could go to get some dinner and got directions to the finish area so I could scope it out before I got dinner.  Nothing too exciting for dinner, just found a local pizza place and got a small cheese and a side salad.

Went back to the hotel and laid out all my gear for the race in the morning and went over my hydration plan and checked the weather forecast one more time, hoping maybe it had changed, but it was going to be in the 80s and sunny.  Not much I could do about it but slow my pace and stay hydrated and keep my electrolytes in check.  I had clif shots powder and salt stick tablets.  And plenty of sun block too.  I was as ready as I could be.  Nothing left to do but try and get some sleep.

I woke up before my alarm went off.  Made a cup of coffee and got dressed.  Ate a little breakfast and took a few pre-race photos:

Headed out the door at 6:45am to go to the finish and get on a shuttle to the start.  Just as I was leaving I met the guy staying in the room next to mine, he asked if he could follow me to the finish to park.  When we got to the shuttle buses we started chatting and he happened to be from the greater Boston area too.  It was nice to have someone to talk to before the race so I didn't just stand around freaking out about the weather.

At the start, it was clear that it was a small race, less than 300 runners.  And it quickly became clear that it would be a LONG day.  Before we even started it was 70 degrees out.  Oh well, I was about to run my 10th marathon and I'd make the most of it no matter how long it took me.  We lined up at 9:00 and the gun went off and we began the journey from Bennington to Manchester along a point ot point course.

The course was pretty, but it WAS the green mountain state and it did not disappoint.  There was about 500 feet of elevation climbing before the halfway mark.  We ran through a covered bridge and along a lot of dirt roads, over some railroad tracks and through some very nice quiet neigborhoods.  In the first half of the race there were NOT enough water stops.  I was really glad I had my fuel belt.  The water stops were maybe every 3 miles and in heat like we were running in I would expect to see them at least every other mile.  I even refilled my fuel belt at one of the water stops. 

I took gels at 5, 9, 13, 17, and 21 and salt at 7, 11, 15, 19, and 23.  In the second half of the race they must have asked the volunteers from earlier water stops to move towards the end because the water stops were much more frequent and they were really great.  They had cups of water AND ice.  A few of them had hoses or spray bottles to mist you with and one even had a woman that re-applied sunblock for me.  I felt ok until maybe mile 16 then I slowed down significantly.  I still 'ran' as much as I could and kept moving.  I was still sweating and never got chills or got sick.  I was just slow.

Here are my splits:
1- 9:51
2- 8:51 (downhill and lots of people saying happy birthday to me, I got a little excited)
3- 9:41
4- 10:30 (finally settling into a more reasonable pace)
5- 10:22
6- 10:42
7- 10:14
8- 10:19
9- 11:00 (beginning of dirt roads, lots of loose gravel)
10- 10:55
11- 11:29
12- 11:21
13- 10:31
14- 11:42
15- 10:23
16- 14:21 (stopped for a while at the water stop to cool off)
17- 12:18 (definitely overheating)
18- 14:29 (stopped again to cool off, actually put ice in my armpits to bring my core temp down)
19- 12:14
20- 11:59
21- 12:37
22- 13:50
23- 13:25
24- 13:10
25- 13:29
26- 12:35

Overall, finished in 5:08:32, considering the heat and the hills I'm pretty happy with that.  I maintained pretty consistant pacing and never got sick and I FINISHED!  10 marathons!  Holy crap!  Never thought I would run one nevermind 10!  Every single step is a miracle to me because of how far I've come and how much I've accomplished.  I don't care that I'm not the fastest person out there.  To me even starting the race is winning because it wasn't long ago that I couldn't even do that.  I was on my way to an early grave from living an unhealthy life and being an unhealthy weight.  Now I'm an active, happy, healthy person and proud to call myself a RUNNER!

After I finished, I was handed a medal and a volunteer draped my race shirt over my shoulders soaked in ice water.  It felt like heaven.  I found some shade and guzzled a bottle of water.  Got my bag and put on my flip flops.  I noticed when I took my shoes off my ankles and feet were really swollen.  I knew my hands and wrists were swollen because I had to loosen my garmin while I was running.  I made my way to my car and put on some dry clothes and then drove to the nearest grocery store to get some ice for an ice bath.  Picked up a few extra bags for my neighbor and left them outside his hotel room door.  As I filled up the tub for my ice bath, he returned and I went out to ask him how he did.  He saw the ice and said he wanted to cry.  I was glad I could help.  It was a long day.

I took my ice bath, showered and hit the road.  3+ hour drive home was going to be rough.  I called my mom once I was on the road to tell her I finished and I was alive.  She congratulated me on my 2nd place finish in the stair climb and I had to verify that she didn't think I ran the marathon in 2:45 and placed 2nd.  Just had to be sure she wasn't confusing the results from the weekend events.  She understood and was still proud of me.  I was overwhelmed with the idea of what I had accomplished not just for the weekend but in the recent years.  I got a little choked up and started crying.  She asked if I was disappointed in my marathon time and I explained, no not at all, exactly the opposite.  I am AMAZED that I did it.

I called a few more friends on my way home and told them about the race and some of the great people I met on the course.  Still has to be my favorite part of running.  You meet the most amazing people.  I met a guy named 'Clem' at one point and then saw him at a few water stops and various spots along the way.  He was a little old asian man in his 60s who had run 70+ marathons and 140+ ultramarathons and told me he started running when he was 46 so, "I had a ways to go".  Hilarious!  Clem beat me by 4 minutes - Nice work!  I hope I'm still running in my 60s and passing people in their 30s.

I finally made it home around 7:30pm and crashed on my couch.  I couldn't fall alseep right away.  I was too sore to get comfy and a little sun burnt and salty still.  Not really hungry, but all I had to eat during the day was gels and salt.  I stopped and got a slice of pizza on my way home, but still didn't eat much.  I forced myself to eat a little something before I went to bed and chugged and little more water with clif shots powder in it.  I didn't really sleep well, but I had Monday off from work so I could stay in bed as long as I wanted.

I slept in as much as I could then got up and drank some tea and a little more water.  I went to lunch with Kim and Ryann and Cherie to celebrate.  Life Alive, of course.  Then I went grocery shopping and cleaned my house a little before calling it a day.  Oh and I finally rewarded myself for all my hard work and capped off the birthday celebrations with a very well earned and well deserved cupcake and a wish for....... I'm not telling, but if it comes true I'll let you know.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Big Lake race recap

Wow, time really does fly when you're having fun.  Last week went by wicked fast.  When I got back from Copenhagen I had a little trouble readjusting to the time difference.  Days seemed like night and I struggled to sleep during the night.  Often waking up at midnight or 1:00am totally wide awake. 

Saturday morning I did a fun run with some of my favorite running friends.  We ran in Methuen and we were celebrating Cherie graduating and returning to weekend long runs.  YAY!  We just did 8 miles, but Methuen is really hilly and I think I only got a few solid hours of sleep from when I got home to when I woke up to run.  It was rough for me.  I was definitely the slowest one in the group, but I didn't care, it was just nice to see everyone and catch up.  I averaged 10:00s and felt like I was dying the whole time.  I was so sluggish.

Sunday I was suppose to do 14-16 miles, but decided to relax instead.  I finished a book and made some soup, watched a few movies, and just napped on my couch all day.

Monday it was back to reality and back to work.  I mean I was working the whole time I was in Copenhagen, but I wasn't working on MY stuff.  I was working on Copenhagen stuff.  It was nice to get back and try to refocus on things.  It took me a while and my brain was a little hazy all day, but I made a to-do list and started chipping away at it.  After work I went for a run along the Charles and felt a lot better than I did on the Saturday morning run.  I did 7 miles and averaged a 9:40 pace.  Felt really good.

Tuesday I rested (it was gross and rainy out and I'm tapering so I told myself it was ok).  Wednesday I did my weekly Ayer run with Kim.  Nice and easy, 9:50 average pace, tapering for the half and taking it easy.  Thursday I did a short 3 mile out and back from work then went home to pack for the weekend.

Friday, the day went by super fast and then I rushed home and finished packing a few last minute things.  Kim and Bill picked me up and we headed up to Alton Bay for the Big Lake Half.  We stayed at Sandy Point.  It's far from fancy, but it's cheap and right on the race course.  Unfortunately, the walls are paper thin and the neighbors were, well for lack of a better word, A-holes.  We went to sleep around 8:00 and the people in the next room over checked in around 9:00 with a whole friggin litter of kids that were running around like animals.  They were screaming right outside our room and SLAMMING the door to their room over and over again.  Kim finally couldn't take it anymore and got up and asked them to keep it down.  After that they were silent.  It was much better.

We got up in the morning and ate breakfast before heading to the race start.  We got there a little early, but it was good because the line for the port-o-potties was about a mile long- not kidding.  We actually found a hidden port-o-potty and waited in that line before abandoning even that shorter line for the nearest section of woods we could find.  It was pretty funny because everyone else was doing the exact same thing.  We made it out of the woods and headed to the start.  Bill went to the front with the super fast people and Kim and I hung back in the middle of the pack.  Here we are pre-race:

They had someone sing the national anthem and the gun went off and we started.  The course is absolutely stunning.  You run along Lake Winnipesaukee and the views of the mountains are amazing.  Each water stop has a different theme.  The first one I remember was Parrot Heads/Land Sharks playing Jimmy Buffet.  The next one was grass skirts and flammingos.  Then there was some sort of female bootcamp pink camo group.  They were enthusiastic, but tough to tell what their theme was.  After that was super heroes, they were cute. Mostly little kids in halloween costumes.

I forget but at some point in the first 5 miles Kim and I were chatting and then started talking with some girls near us and realized they were from the greater Lowell area too.  Not only that, but they were nurses like Kim AND one of them was married to a cop just like Kim.  Meaghan and Melinda.  I was talking to Meaghan and Kim was talking to Melinda for the whole first half or more of the race.  I lost track of the miles and before I knew it we were at 6, then 7, then 8 and 9.  The miles literally flew by.  Then somewhere between 9 and 10 I was in the zone.  I noticed I had stopped sweating and got goosebumps so I knew it might be downhill from there and not just topographically.  I took some salt tablets and put the hammer down.  I lost track of Meaghan and Kim and Melinda and just focused on finishing strong. Here we are with Meaghan and Melinda at the finish:

Right at the 10 mile marker I passed some Greater Lowell Road Runners and gave them some encouragement, "warm up is over, let's race!"  I felt great and knew that the last part of the course was fast and downhill to the finish.  I passed people left and right and tried to motivate people that were struggling, "less than a 5K to go", "only one more mile", "you can do it".  With a little less than a mile to go I saw Bill running towards me.  He asked where Kim was and I replied I didn't know, he wished me luck and kept running to meet her and run her in to the finish.  Last mile, I picked up the pace and killed it.  Thinking to myself the entire time, "race smart, start slow, finish strong" mission ccomplished!  I crossed the finish at 2:05:16 and felt amazing.  I waited for Kim and then I ran and jumped in the lake:
Best ice bath ever.  The water wasn't even that cold.  Here is a photo of all of us plus the Greater Lowell Road Runners that ran too:

It was a great day for a race.  Weather was perfect.  50s and partly cloudy in the morning and then gorgeous and sunny at the finish.  Oh and there was free ice cream at the finish.  My favorite part.

Here are my splits from the race according to my garmin: 10:00, 9:34, 9:27, 9:21, 10:07 (stopped for gel and to see where Kim was), 9:50, 9:08, 9:23, 9:22, 9:07, 9:04, 9:03, 8:53.  I'd say I'm ready for the full this weekend.  Nothing left to do but relax and that is exactly what I have planned for the week. 

Birthday spa day Wednesday including a 90 minute massage and a manicure/pedicure, then acupuncture Thursday after work, and perhaps a little carb loading on birthday cake Friday.  Saturday is the stair climb in Bennington, VT and then I run Marathon #10 Sunday.  Oh FYI I'm still $90 short of my goal to raise $500 for American Lung Association, I'm asking everyone to please make a donation to my climb, I have everything I need, so to make my birthday special I want to give to charity.  Please go to my page and donate whatever you can to help me reach this goal:

Thanks in advance!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Running Abroad

Last week was filled with a lot of firsts for me.  First stamp in my new passport, first time in Business class on a flight, first trip to Europe (Denmark with a pitstop in Iceland), first run on foreign soil, first bike ride in a foreign country, and a few more things. 

Let's start with the trip to Copenhagen.  Before I left on Saturday I did a 16 mile run with Kim and Shannon splitting the miles with me again.  My flight left Boston at 9:30pm Saturday night and I arrived Sunday afternoon and just got settled in my hotel room before going to dinner with my boss.  My legs actually got really swollen probably from the combination of running 16 miles and then sitting on a plane for ~12hrs.  I had cankles.  It was really weird.  Even when I was overweight I don't remember my ankles ever being that swollen. 

Anyway, dinner Sunday night, we walked into the main town square and my boss took me to his favorite italian place.  I figured there would be something I could eat, maybe plain pasta and sauce, I was wrong.  The only vegetarian thing they had was spinach and ricotta cannaloni and I seriously doubt there was much spinach in it at all.  It was basically a bowl of melted cheese.  Thank God I brought snacks and could eat a little when I got back to the hotel.

Monday we went to work, it was crazy busy and I could see I was not going to get to explore the city much while I was there.  Only time I got to see the city was on a short run after work and before dinner each night.  Here are some photos from my first running tour through Copenhagen (CPH) 6 miles along the water front:
Hans Christian Andersen Blvd.

Nyhavn (New Harbour)
The Little Mermaid

My souvenir - a cobblestone from the streets of CPH

Monday night for dinner we went to the Thai restaurant in the hotel.  It was ok, not great, but I was happy to have something I could actually eat.  Veggies!!!  YAY!  Oh and I forgot to mention at work there was no cafeteria, they have food brought in for lunch and it is usually a variety of meats and bread.  So I ate a lot of bread.

Tuesday, I did another 6 miles after work and explored a different part of the city.  I went into the heart of CPH and tried to spot as many tourist attractions as possible.  Here are my photos:
Some museum

Tivoli amusement park/gardens

Main square with McD's sign above a BK

Round Tower

Stork Fountain (which is actually cranes not storks)

Stroget - main shopping area

Royal Gardens

Marble Church

Kastellet - fort/park

Opera house

Royal Palaces

Tuesday night for dinner we just wandered downtown and stumbled upon one of the 4 vegetarian restaurants I was able to find on Google - RizRaz.  It was nothing fancy, a vegetarian buffet, cheap all you can eat veggies.  HEAVEN for me in a land of meat eaters.  My boss was less impressed.  It was kind of amusing.

Wednesday, I did a shorter run, 5 miles.  To an area of CPH called "the lakes".  They are manmade ponds, maybe for defense of the inner city back in the day, now beautiful parks for walking and biking.  It was a short mile and a half to the lakes and then I ran around two of them and back to the hotel.  It was very similar to running along the Charles.  Different loops and bridges you could run for various distances.  Here are the photos from that run:
The Lakes

A running store!

The distances around each lake in danish/metric

Action shot waiting at a stop light

Wednesday night for dinner we ate at the hotel again, but at a different restaurant.  Again there were not many options for me.  I had pasta with pesto and had to ask for a salad made special for me without meat. 

Thursday I did a much shorter run through one of the suburb sections just outside the city near our hotel.  I wanted to see a few more of the hot tourist attractions.  I went to this famous church with crazy stairs that go all the way up the steeple on the outside, but it was closed.  I might have been too scared to climb it anyway.  Even the view from the ground was intimidating.  I also ran past the "free town" area - hippy section.  Here are the photos:
Church with crazy stairs


Thursday night we went for dinner and drinks with a colleague from Copenhagen.  Once again food was limited for me because someone suggested going to a 'burger joint' even though everyone knew I do not eat meat.  I was able to order several small appetizers and a bowl of miso soup.  The dessert was the best part of the meal, Creme Brulee - YUMMY!  Then we went ot a little hole in the wall bar that I'm not even going to mention because I don't want it to become a tourist attraction.  What made it awesome was that it was impossible to find and overflowing with character and class.  The drinks were super special cocktails based on early mixed drinks from prohibition speak easys and under ground clubs.  It was so fun!

Friday was my last day in CPH and it was a holiday so I didn't have to work, but neither did anyone else in the city.  Everything was closed.  I rented a bike from the hotel and road around the quiet cobblestone streets for a few hours before catching my flight home.  It was a really fun way to see the city and I highly recommend it.

Although it was a whirlwind trip and I enjoyed seeing a new place, I was VERY happy to get home and eat some fresh leafy green lettuce and seasonal organic veggies.  The salad I had for lunch on Saturday was simple, but you would have thought it was the equivalent of dietary gold.  I savored every bite.

UPDATE on the Huffington Post contest.  I made it to the final round and voting has now closed.  I will let everyone know if I win and post the pictures afterwards.